John Delaney hailed as the ‘best signing the FAI has ever made’ at AGM
FAI CEO John Delaney received a standing ovation from delegates at the association’s AGM in Sligo after thanking them for their support.
Delaney endured a difficult year after the furore surrounding the €5m ‘loan’ from FIFA, his well publicised ballad singing episode and mounting questions over the financial picture of the FAI.
But in a meeting that fell in line with the general tone of recent years, Delaney received strong backing from the floor.
He finished his address by dealing with criticism of the FAI regarding the consistently unremarkable nature of the AGM which again was notable for the lack of ‘Any Other Business’ or questions from the floor.
For the third year on the trot, there was no post-meeting press conference with the assembled media and a number of questions submitted 12 months ago related to financial and other matters have yet to be answered. There was also a heavy security presence at the Clarion Hotel in Sligo arising from erroneous reports that a protest by fans was planned.
“Much has been made in recent years about what happens at our AGMs,” said Delaney, “Some observers would suggest that all decisions and debate should happen here at this event on one day out of 365.
“The reality is, as we all know, in every town, in every county, in every province, the affiliates who run the game with our support of the executive, the committees, the board and council members are making decisions on a weekly basis in the best interests of Irish football. If this wasn’t working, I’m sure that you, as delegates, would let us know either here or during our regular meetings.
“We are united, a confident organisation and the support is incredible. I do not take this support for granted and I value your support. And I am proud, very proud, to be your CEO of this great, great Association.”
His closing comments were met with an ovation from the floor which started from a small base and steadily built up in numbers as the applause grew louder.
Delaney was later described as the ‘best signing the FAI has ever made’ by Noel Kennedy from the Sligo/Leitrim League. He was speaking after being awarded Honorary Life Membership of the association.
The FAI’s debt levels, including a bank overdraft, stand at €51.2m. There was no reference today to the target of being ‘debt free by 2020.’ Instead, Finance Director Eamon Breen said that the FAI intend to make ‘significant inroads’ into reducing debt in the period 2015-2020.
He added that the expansion of the European Championships to 24 teams has provided the FAI with increased opportunity to qualify for major tournaments going forward, although both Breen and Delaney said that the FAI do not budget for that eventuality.
The FAI say that they have improved their debt position by securing a debt writedown worth in the region of €12m which involved a deal with a US equity firm. In addition, they received €3m from UEFA as part of their Hat-Trick funding programme and did not have to pay back the controversial €5m ‘loan’ from FIFA. Delaney’s only regret about that incident is that he didn’t ask for more.
Eddie Murray, the Honorary Treasurer, said that the FAI had reached agreement with their publishers that no extra costs would arise from the pulping of match programmes before the Scotland game last month to remove comments by Delaney about Sepp Blatter.
“We may not have got everything right, but we get a lot more right than wrong,” said Delaney. “For years we were talking about the possibility of a national stadium for our game, now we have one of the finest in Europe.”
The rest of the meeting featured a series of presentations from the head of the various committees. This included a presentation from Declan Conroy who is in the midst of drawing up a report into the state of the League of Ireland.
Meanwhile, Ruud Dokter, the High Performance Director, launched the FAI’s Player Development Plan which is described as a ‘player focused model based on enjoyment and skill development whilst reducing the emphasis on winning at all costs.’
“Our mission statement is to ensure that all players have the opportunity to play, learn and enjoy the game and develop to their maximum potential,” he said. “That’s why we have to develop a common uniform policy for underage football.”
With regard to Martin O'Neill's senior team, however, it is clear they have to start winning at all costs to boost the coffers.
In the annual report and financial statements, there was a familiar entry under the heading of 'Principal Risks and Uncertainties Facing The Association.'
"The association is dependent upon the income generated by the success of the Senior International Team by way of ticket revenue, sponsorship, and television revenue to continue to invest in all aspects of football throughout the country," it read.
"Any variances in the revenue being generated from such activities may affect the level of such investment."